A Ma'an Develpoement Centre project implemented with Bustan Qaraaqa funded by UNDP-GEF Small Grants Program and AusAid through the AMENCA 2 Small Grants Program
“Unfortunately, it was Paradise…” wrote the Poet. The mild, sunny climate and deep rich soils of the Marj il-Ibn Amer permit the cultivation of a wealth of crops originating from the tropics to temperate zones; and from the World’s rainforests to its deserts. After Eight thousand years of accumulated agricultural intelligence and experience in Palestine, enriched with the innovations of cultures from around the world, is it not time to let Paradise to reassert itself? By harnessing the regenerative force of nature in this unique land, the Beit Qad Project is demonstrating the full potential of the Palestinian environment for a prosperous future for all.
The Beit Qad Centre is open to you to see taste and enjoy the rich future within grasp of Palestinians today. We a have brought together to share with you the best of the past and the best of present with technologies to carry us far into the future. The Beit Qad system is a demonstration of cutting edge research using the great diversity native species, the wisdom of Arabic traditional design and the innate intelligence of the emergent science of regenerative design. On the richest land in the West Bank we have assembled a wealth of native and exotic plants and animals to show you what is possible on 15 dunum without external water and energy sources. By harvesting energy, water, carbon and nitrogen in situ and inspired by Palestine’s illustrious past we are creating an Earthly Paradise of accumulating abundance where recently there was sun-scorched earth.
Beit Qad Centre welcomes you to explore the farm, to discover opportunities and economies for your home. Although a work in progress, the farm has 50+ crop varieties and rising. In addition to the elegant earth-built buildings we can demonstrate:
· Rainwater harvesting and water conservation for water independence
· Soil stabilisation and regeneration
· Conservation and utilisation of rare and diverse native tree species
· Integrated vegetable crop production
· Fish farming and aquaponics (vegetable & fish production)
· Prevention of disease and ecological integrated pest management
· Natural architecture
The value of diversity is newly being exploited by Palestinian farmers. Home and agricultural systems enjoy economic stability, year round productivity protection from pests and disease and resilience to political and climatic disturbance. We are trialling old and new crops in a variety of experimental designs ranging from aquaponics to agroforestry.
Rainwater harvesting and conservation for water security
First we planted the water. Then we planted the garden
For millennia, civilised and nomadic cultures have thrived on the land of Palestine almost exclusively utilising rainwater. Diverse innovations for enjoying this seasonally abundant resource year-round have been exported to the world. In contrast to groundwater, rainwater is free, devoid of dissolved solids and disease, and geographically ubiquitous. Having harvested the water, conservation is key to maximise the utility of this vital resource.
Groundwater requires energy to pump it from the ground and transport it to the site of its usage and is therefore costly to access. The lack of waste water treatment in the West Bank has resulted in groundwater, contamination with toxic chemicals and disease. Inappropriate irrigation regimes result in soil degradation through salination which is exacerbated by the evaporation potential of the long hot summer and the alkaline soil conditions in the west bank. What’s more, the groundwater reserves in the Mountain Aquifer are fast diminishing and extraction is subject to obstruction by the Occupying Forces, appropriating the resource for their own exclusive use. Dependence on groundwater is incompatible with a future of water and food security for Palestinian community. It is also a daily waste of resources chronically depressing agricultural production through soil salination. The Beit Qad Farm is designed to harvest the winter rain and build soil humidity year after year for a verdant, thriving farm with no need for other water sources.
The swale system
The swale system is the single most effective and important functional element in the farm design. It is also the simplest and the easiest to maintain. The swale system has three related roles:
1. Rainwater harvesting and infiltration to increase the soil humidity
2. Prevention of soil erosion to conserve soil structure and fertility
3. Accretion of soil eroded from offsite (especially organic material) to build soil structure and fertility
Water harvesting reservoirs collect the runoff from impermeable surfaces for irrigation, aquaculture and climatic amelioration.
The food forest at Beit Qad is perhaps the most radical and exciting feature of the farm. Combining, the indigenous Palestinian trees species of the Mediterranean forest, Asian Steppe, and African savanna and desert ecosystems with species introduced in ancient and modern times, we have designed a diverse self-sustaining forest. Providing refuge from the blazing sun, the forest collects and conserves water, creates deep rich soil, prevents pests and diseases and offers a great diversity of fruit, nuts, salad leaves, sweet sap, flowers for honey, fodder for milk and meat, valuable gums and resins, fragrant incenses, fuel and timber. The idea is that the trees do the work so we don’t have to. The forest is designed as a community of cooperating species each providing the others with services and support. Pioneering features of the design include:
Utilisation of very rare and, hitherto, neglected indigenous species for exploitation, conservation and education.
Faidherbia albida for gum, dairy animal fodder, and summer deciduous phenology to achieve a positive water balance for the whole forest; and nitrogen fixation
Moringa peregrina for its superlatively nutritious leaves and seeds; drinking water sanitation from its fruit flour; and summer deciduous phenology for soil humidity conservation; and nitrogen fixation
Balanites aegyptiaca for its salt-free soapnuts for ecological household detergents; and nitrogen fixation
Acacia tortilis for it gomme Arabique: oil and vitamin rich bark for dairy animal fodder; fuelwood; and nitrogen fixation
Pistacia lentiscus for mastic gum and to serve as a rootstock onto which to graft the pistachio nut (Pistacia vera)
Wind breaks and fire break to mitigate environment hazards
Fire retardant species protect the farm from wildfires common in the West Bank
Windbreaks diffuse and reroute the force and desiccating effect of the wind up and over the farm conserving moisture in the system.
Soil conservation, fertility and structural improvement measures:
Swales to intercept surface flow of storm water to deposit organic matter and eroded soil and to prevent erosion from occurring on site.
Use of trees to fertilise the soil with atmospheric nitrogen, and micro-nutrients from the deep down in to soil and the addition of organic material to the soil through their creation of a litter layer.
Rainwater harvesting and conservation structures
The area of impermeable surfaces is minimised to facilitate the infiltration to the soil and the area of leaf cover during the rainy season is maximised to facilitate interception of rainfall.
Summer deciduous species are deployed within and around tree and vegetable intercrops to minimise summer transpiration rates to conserve soil humidity. In theory this could result in a positive water balance of annually increasing soil humidity.
Swales intercept the storm runoff and spread it over the entire farm’s area retaining the water on the farm so it infiltrates the soil.
Mulch is a layer of organic material spread over the surface of all exposed soil to protect the soil from the pernicious effect of the Sun and to prevent the evaporation of soil humidity reducing the need for irrigation.
The production of honey is another important part of the sustainable agriculture on the farm in Beit Qad. Pollen and nectar are provided by the diversity of plants producing flowers all year. The forest plays an important role since there are always some tree species in bloom to maintain honey production year round. The inclusion of many Ziziphus trees in the forest allows the bees to produce the valued medicinal black honey.
The farm demonstrates a wide range of aquaculture techniques ranging from the intensive to the extensive:
Recirculating greenwater aquaculture of Common Carp, Silver Carp and and Tilapia in a pool of harvested rainwater, fertilised with manure with an integrated wetland filtration system producing aquatic vegetable crops like rice.
Low intensity green water aquaculture system in a 1000 cubic meter rainwater reservoir without mechanical circulation or filtration but maintained by ecosystem services provided by the sunlight and wind.
Commercial aquaponics facility intensively producing Tilapia fish and various vegetable crops with the nutrient film technique
Domestic food security model producing Tilapia fish and various vegetable crops using the flood and drain technique.
Aquaculture provides the opportunity for water conservation by reducing the quantity of water required per unit vegetable crop by 90%.
Research and development
The team at Beit Qad is pioneering practices and technologies for the regenerative management of natural resources to create sytems of accumulating resource abundance contributing to the creation of an economy of resistance.
Visit the farm! The farm is open to visitors five days a week from Saturday to Wednesday. Guided tours for groups can be arranged with prior notice: Contacts
Tree nursery: The Beit Qad tree nursery offers a wide range of indigenous and introduced species for your garden and farm including many rare species. Please check out the nursery catalogue for this year’s stock availability. The Team can offer advice in species selection and cultivation design.
Vegetable nursery: The Beit Qad Vegetable nursery seasonally offers a wide range of vegetable seedlings for use on your farm. The availability varies with season so please consult the catalogue to website) or place an order.
Environmental education events are schedule throughout the year and all are welcome. The farm exhibits a growing range of technologies and species for you to discover. Workshops can be held on specific topics of interest lead by our team of experts. Available by prior arrangement.